Charles Nevin: The modern way to avoid controversy

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The Independent Online

Here we are then: another Monday, another week. Do you want a quiet one, head down, no fuss, just getting on with it? Or do you fancy a flurry of lively publicity which might be fun when it starts but can find you whimpering behind the sofa with the curtains drawn while my colleagues from other media organisations alternately wheedle and cajole through the letter box?

The chances of this happening are, of course, much reduced if you are an unknown figure with no public profile. But do remember Mrs Duffy, of Rochdale, and Mrs Palin, of Alaska. No one, however, need panic as long as they follow my handy anti-controversy advisory and precautionary check-list. Ready?

If you find yourself standing next to Boris Johnson, run. Ditto, Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne, Katie “Jordan” Price, Peter “Pete” Doherty, Paris “Hotel” Hilton, Charlie “Right Little Mr” Sheen and anyone from the BBC, especially if they are Mark Thompson, Fiona Bruce, or holding a placard. Do not, on any account, Twitter, even if you’re the host of a BBC programme with a family audience and it is only to request a young fan to send pictures of her breasts. Just not worth it. Facebook: do not post amusing photographs or messages curtly ending a relationship. E-mailing: never send anything after midnight. And do pay attention: look where you’ve just sent that one. Texting: frankly, I’d avoid communicating by mobile unless you’re a personal friend of at least two proprietors of popular newspapers.

Do not, even for a moment, go to Dubai. Do not, on any account, irritate either Julie Burchill or Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Never attack Andrew Sachs, Bob Geldof, Rabbi Lionel Blue or Dame Vera Lynn. Always check for television aerials and uncanny similarities to other works when making period drama tv programmes. A plain poppy, on Thursday and Sunday only. No donkey jackets, yawning or smiling at the Cenotaph. If you are going to give your nuclear submarines cocky names, I would suggest fitting them with those little parking thingies that go beep. Don’t stir up racial antagonisms if you’ve just been the Immigration Minister. Do not kill large stags unless you are really hungry. Have absolutely nothing to do with anything French, including large aircraft carriers and small men with lifts in their shoes and lively wives. Just get on with your homework if Silvio Berlusconi invites you to his villa. Use your mobile to take your photograph like everybody else. Do not sell personal items on eBay unless you’ve got your story completely straight. Try to persuade your half sister not to convert to Islam until she’s got past Page 60 of the Koran.

On the whole, it is better not to make or invite any comparisons of any present and passing condition in our current society with the determined attempts to annhilate entire peoples last century. Bishops, too, should, on the whole, avoid drinks receptions at the Irish Embassy and anything that could be in any way interpreted as denying the existence of God or characterising their opponents as Nazis. On this, I have also noticed that, whoever you are, and call me old-fashioned, no good ever seems to come from dressing up as an SS officer. Now get out there and good luck!

The sad truth about British wildlife

I assure you I’m as proud of my country as I should be. I have thrilled to our heroes : Alfred, the Lionheart, Prince Hal, Drake, Wolfe, Nelson, Wellington, Kitchener, Montgomery, Gareth Bale, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Newton, Humphrys, Callow, Cole, Gok Wan, Fry and such great names as these. Well, yes, I have come to realise that heroism is not entirely uncomplicated, and that heroes need sad losers, too. Lately, though, I have become increasingly aware of a significant sector of such losers who have consistently failed to show the British phlegm and pluck demanded.

Last week was typical: research showed that while Spanish ants are ruthless and ambitious, British ants are lethargic, apathetic and easily led. Exactly. And what about these other natives: red squirrels, white clawed crayfish, knotweed, voles, swans, even ladybirds?

Let me remind you: grey squirrels, American crayfish, Japanese knotweed, American mink, Australian swans, Asian ladybirds. All of them giving a terrible time to our own flora and fauna, who seem to be offering precious little resistance. Why is our wildlife so wimpy? Over to you, Nigel Farage.

Further adventures in the Amazon jungle

Last week, I revealed my plight as a man who had written a book about people called Jack. It hadn’t been selling very well, even before Oliver supplanted it as our favourite name. After a study of Amazon, I can tell you I have now sold another copy. Coincidence? Not if I know the legendary discernment of the Independent reader. By the way, did you know today is the 77th anniversary of the birth of Jack Kilby, the US inventor of the microchip? Just thought I’d mention it.

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